For the most part I’m a pretty musically open person. I listen to an assortment of bands in every genre and respect them all for their individual traits. For awhile I thought I would never be able to do this with one genre though. Metal to me has always seemed over done, badly produced and incredibly repetitive (but not in a good way). Few metal bands seem to stretch themselves out to the point of true experimentation and would much rather fill some filler with a five minute guitar solo then with something that would actually be worth my time to listen to. I tried to get into Opeth, I worked very hard to get into Cryptopsy, and finally when I thought all hope was lost, I found the perfect metal band for me, maudlin of the Well. At the recommendation of Nick (Dfelon) two years or so ago, I downloaded the album Choirs of the Eye by a band by Kayo Dot. The album interested me, but seemed a little bit too dense for my tastes. It seemed like someone who truly understood the actual “making” of the music would respect the album far more than me, so I kind of listened to it rarely and considered it something that was a bit above me. As time passed my musical knowledge increased as well as my taste and finally one day I picked up Choirs of the Eye and everything clicked. The piccolo trumpet solo on “The Manifold Curiosity”, the spoken lyrics closing “Marathon” and the overall purpose of the album. I wanted more of the band so as I searched and searched I discovered that the previous incarnation of Kayo Dot, maudlin of the Well had released three albums. I picked up Bath the “highly recommended” record and was absolutely floored. Finally, a band that wasn’t afraid to step so far out of the boundaries of metal that it didn’t even sound like it anymore. maudlin of the Well gave me faith for a genre I had little for and also gave me a reason to enjoy metal music. So what does this story have to do with anything" Well, I feel as if Kayo Dot in turn has helped me further appreciate the genre of “metal” and that really helps describe what kind of band they are. They’re the kind of metal band that can take a hardcore/indie fan and turn him into a head banging metal kid at their concerts. They’re the kind of metal band that isn’t afraid to sound like “pussies” or be a bit “awkward”. They have the serious tone to them like every metal band, but they have an organic feel that makes the music actually interesting to me. And that’s why I hold them in the highest accord, because they are and have been the metal band that can convert any music fan into a metal fan, and with their release “Dowsing Anemone With Copper Tongue” they further prove this.
“Dowsing Anemone With Copper Tongue” begins with the song Gemini Becoming the Tripod which is a slow burner. By the end of the song Toby’s voice is going insane, and the most metal moments on the album are occurring. The song is a mess of drones and whispers until its explosion and the bands “other instruments” (the trumpet and violin) are heard very far in the background which is very similar to the start of “Choirs of the Eye”. The lyrics written by Jason Byron (his only role in the band) are much more melancholy and ugly in comparison to the ones found of “Choirs of the Eye” which is interesting, because they have far more in common with typical metal lyrics than any other aspect of Kayo Dot’s musical endeavors. The difference of Kayo Dot as a band is instantly evident in the first song as they seem to have gone darker and more atmospheric, while “Choirs of the Eye” had long building songs they never were as showered in ambience as “Dowsing Anemone With Copper Tongue’s” pieces are.
Following Gemini Becoming the Tripod is Immortelle and Paper Caravelle which is a very “jazzish”, slow song. It begins with some interesting percussion work and a drifting guitar and bass line. The song reminds me very much of the band Talk Talk and their album Laughing Stock. Its jazz doused in the taste of pop and it’s beautiful to the ears. The same effect that was implicated on Toby’s voice in Manifold Curiosity seems like it is used slightly on this track. The contrasting beauty of this track fits perfectly with the all out brutality of the last track. Forbes’ trumpet is subtle and beautiful as are Mia’s occasional violin swells. This is the only track on the album featuring lyrics by Toby Driver and it seems a lot more beautiful and airy in comparison to the harsh nature of the other songs on the album. The end of Immortelle is a soft and beautiful conclusion, which seems as if it’s about to explode into a crescendo at numerous moments. That moment never does come though which I find particular interesting since Kayo Dot seems to be more reliant on sounds bold and boisterous after moments of beauty, but in the end of this song they just let it slowly fade away, which is perfectly suited for the situation.
Aura on An Asylum Wall starts off with a very tribal beat and the singing voice of Toby that has a sense of anxiety in it which Mia compliments with some screechy violin. In my opinion Aura is the most “accessible” song on the album, and also the one most like “Choirs of the Eye”. Forbes is highlighted in this songs beginning very much. The reason this is my pick for the easiest song on “Dowsing Anemone With Copper Tongue” is because it features the most all band performance. Toby is playing clarinet, Mia is stroking her violin, and Forbes is playing off of them both with his trumpet, as the band backs them in such soft complimenting ways. The trio of “other instruments” ends and a small drum builds our minds for a large release since the last twelve or so minutes have been relatively soft in Kayo Dot’s world. The build up is so organic it feels like a Godspeed You Black Emperor! Song, every drum beat, guitar lick, violin stroke, is all perfectly encompassing the sense of tension and it’s beautiful. When the release finally comes it’s not unexpected, but it washes over the mind. It feels so right and so in place that it’s so difficult to imagine just a few minutes ago the song was leaning on jazz legs. The song ends pretty directly after its build-up and we are lead onto the next journey Kayo Dot is guiding the light through.
Following the easiest likeable track is the most difficult song to get into on the album. On Limpid Form is an eighteen minute travel into the brink of insanity. That’s all I can think once the early spotless meanderings end on this song. An interesting part of this song is it has the first “typical” guitar solo which is fairly humorous because right after it’s played the song decays into a thirteen minute dissonance/ambience session. The ambience and dissonance of this section is only created with the bass, guitar and drums which is kind of saddening, but it also helps to remind that Kayo Dot is one heavy band. The really fantastic part about this song is the end build-up is spawned by all of the members of the band sans Toby, slowly stopping their instruments and making their way to bang on a trash can. The song slowly builds up until we just hear Toby’s guitar feedbacking in the distance and the loud, intense beating of an oil barrel. Then everything just cuts off suddenly, and we’re greeted with some soft beats of a drum to kick off the final track.
Amaranth the Peddler is my favorite track on “Dowsing Anemone With Copper Tongue”. It’s slow four minute build leads into one of the most beautiful sung passages I have ever heard, and the added softness of the music backing Toby just compliments everything so perfectly. The actual song part of Amaranth the Peddler is the most verse chorusish song on the album, and when it gets to the “bridge” it’s an absolute moment of clarity. It’s the first time we hear a strain of beauty in Toby’s voice, rather than a strain of anguish or anger. Since I have such a love of the band and it’s members, to hear something I haven’t heard since the maudlin of the Well track Geography, is absolutely spine tingling, and it’s the equivalent of the piccolo trumpet solo on Choirs of the Eye for this album, in my opinion. Amaranth ends on a note that’s very similar to that of Immortelle’s a slow build up that dissolves into nothing. And like that the album is finished.
Kayo Dot’s “Dowsing Anemone With Copper Tongue” is like any great album, at first hard to enjoy. Its complexity is perplexing especially to someone who is usually more inclined to simple songs. Kayo Dot are past metal, even past being described by a genre, they seem as if they have transgressed into a simple emotional reflection of their members. Whether that be a strong sense of loneliness or a sense of pure bliss, the emotions are covered in full detail and that’s what in time makes this so accessible to the listener. Like I said before Kayo Dot can attract a non-metal fan and this is the primary reason, their main reliance is on that of pure emotional outlet, not technical prowess, not lyrical finesse. While they possess both of those traits, they aren’t the foundation of their music and that is what helps them to, in my opinion but one if not the top fore-runner in today’s music scene.